December, 2008

  • Canadian UX Blog

    Happy First Day!


    As we are getting ready to celebrate the First Day of 2009, one of my colleagues from Brasil sent me the following note. I really like his way of thinking about First Day. Here I wish everyone Happy New Year and many Happy First Days!


    Below is an electronic holiday greeting card signed by all my teammates from Microsoft Canada. You can click to see the animated card in Silverlight. The art work of the card is created by a 9-year old girl, Catherine Chen, from Eastview Boys and Girls Club in Toronto.

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  • Canadian UX Blog

    Interaction Designer's Elevator Pitch


    j0438696[1] There's a very interesting discussion thread going on at IxDA forum, called "Interaction Designers: What is your elevator pitch?" I consider myself an Interaction or UX Designer who is evangelize UX to the designer and developer community. Although UX Design is a broader term than Interaction Design because it could be any aspect that affects the user experience of a product, these two terms are often used interchangeably in software design. In many social situations, I need to first give the elevator pitch of what is UX design. My answer has evolved over the years:

    Q: What is Interaction Design or UX?

    A: [when I first got into HCI field]: It's like a fashion design but for computer software.

    A: [when I was in grad school]: It's a study of human behaviours when interacting with computer technology through user research, design, and usability evaluation.

    A: [Now] I help people improve their user experiences with they technology they rely on everyday through designing useful, usable, and attractive software. I would like to design compelling User Experience that puts a smile on people's faces.

    Here are my favourite elevator pitches from the discussion thread:

    • I design how digital products and humans interact with each other.
    • I plan and build online experiences for people by focusing on making things easy to use and enjoyable. I do that by listening to people and working to incorporate solutions to meet the needs of the people that will use it. I pretty much just love efficiency and optimizing things for others as best as I can.
    • I help spread the smile when dealing with products and the products could range from a simple website to physical products to entire systems.
    • "I'm an interaction designer"
      "What's that?"
      "I design how things should behave and then get ignored by everyone else."
      "Oh, like what?"
      "Like that your TV remote should have a dial, like a mouse wheel, for volume and channel changing. Because you can skip ahead much faster and count how many notches you've clicked. It could even depress so an on-screen number could rapidly change, and then pressing shoots off to that channel."
      "That's a good idea, why aren't they like that?"
    • To General Public -  "You've seen the TV ad for that Easy Button?  I do that."
      To IT Manager - "Making your 50,000 lines of code  usable by Normal People"
      To Marketing - "I'm the Competitive Edge."
      To CIO - "What's the main difference between a conventional IT shop and a professional software development house?   Me."
    • I design software and websites that people don't hate.

     What's your elevator pitch?

  • Canadian UX Blog

    Merry Christmas, Happy holidays and Happy New Year!


    It’s a pleasure connecting and supporting each and every one of you through the year, both personally and from a team perspective … I am lucky to have a role and great team that is focused on supporting and helping you make a positive difference in Canada.  I also feel so lucky to have this relationship with you. You’ve given us great feedback to help better support you , adjust our programs and hopefully we are earning your trust and building a foundation of satisfaction!

    Canada has so many great developers and technical professionals that really make the difference in their community, business and individually.  Over the year, I’ve had the pleasure to hear so many stories of heroic, life and business changing activities/solutions that you have impacted and delivered.  Hearing your stories makes us even more compelled to support you.  Your impact and feedback give me and my team  the energy to try and do more.  You are such a great group of people to support and I look forward to 2009Family-Pic-1

    Merry Christmas to you and your families from me and mine … wherever you travel, whatever specifics you “celebrate” … may you find some time to BE with loved ones … and relax a little.  Happy 2009!

    As always in the new year… please feel free to contact me directly as my email door is always open .....


    Director Microsoft Canada

  • Canadian UX Blog

    Microsoft Arc Mouse and Simplicity


    Last week everyone on the team received a Microsoft Arc Mouse. I've been wanting to try it for a while since the first time I saw it in Oct. The arc shape of the mouse really attracts me and invites my hand naturally to hold it. As I'm reading the book "Laws of Simplicity" by John Maeda this week, I can't help relating the Arc mouse design with the laws of simplicity.

    The first law of simplicity is REDUCE. As John stated: "The Simplest way to achieve simplicity is through thoughtful reduction." The Arc mouse reduces 40% of its size when folded. It not only easier to carry this way but the folding design also reduces an extra power switch present in other mice. Users unfold the mouse to turn it on and fold it to turn it off. The power light indicating mouse on/off is placed between the left and right mouse button. The Arc design also reduces the mouse weight because the centre of the mouse is hollow. Holding a much lighter mouse than my previous one took me some time to get use to. I find myself placing my small finger under the arc to hold it.


    The seventh law of simplicity is EMOTION. Sometimes simply designed objects can be considered as ugly or cheap. However, this is not the case in the Arc Mouse. Besides the initial attraction of holding the elegant arc object, the finishing material design of the arc could make it much more attractive and expensive. For example, one style of the arc mice is finished with red wood on the top (see the picture below on the left by Kerry Chin). When explaining this law, John introduced "nude electronics" in his book. The idea is "while the core object remains its pure, simple, and cool nakedness; its clothing can keep it warm, vivacious, ... the combination of a simple object together with a host of optical accessories gives consumers the benefit of expressing their feelings and feelings for their objects." Check it out: I've now dressed my arc mouse in a Chinese style carry case rather than using the default carry case it. Its small and convenient size allows me to personalize it. Now I like it even more, and no one can say its cheap or ugly. :-)


    DIFFERENCES is the fifth law of simplicity. "Simplicity and complexity need each other." I still like and use my Microsoft Presenter Mouse 8000. It has a lot more functions than the Arc Mouse, and I can't live without it when I'm presenting. However, I appreciated the simplicity of the Arc Mouse more when I compare it with the Presenter Mouse. The micro-transceiver of the Arc Mouse snaps into the bottom of the mouse, which makes two separating parts into one.

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  • Canadian UX Blog

    [Podcast] Imagine Cup Final Experience


    JinandKevin Remember Jin and Kevin from SFU? We showcased their project on CanUX earlier this year and followed their journey of winning the second place worldwide in the Design Competition for Imagine Cup 08. As Imagine Cup 09 is underway, I sat down with them over Explore Design conference find out what's it really like to be at Imagine Cup Final and competing with peers from around the world. In the 20 minutes interview below (sorry about the noise in the beginning), you'll learn

    • how did they come up with the project idea
    • their competition experience in Paris. Check this out: there were 20,000 students from over 100 countries!
    • what did they do for the final round of the competition - very intense but exciting
    • the judging process and award ceremony
    • tips they offered for this year's contestants

  • Canadian UX Blog

    [Podcast] Microsoft Designer: Ruth Kikin-Gil


    <Digimax V800 / Kenox V20 / Digimax V20 >There are about 500 designers working at Microsoft. People in the UX community are often very surprised to hear about it. I think part of it is we haven't given our designers enough opportunities to talk about what they do and what's it like to work as designers at Microsoft. Therefore, I used my spared time during my visit to Redmond last time to chat with Ruth Kikin-Gil, who is a UX Design Lead at the Office Labs Team.

    Office Labs is a fun group in Microsoft that focuses on prototyping and testing innovative ideas within the productivity space. The popular TouchWall project was coming out of the Envisioning group within the Office Labs. Within a group that constantly strives for innovation, solves tough problems, and designs for the future, I'm curious to find out what it's like to work as a UX designer in the team.

    In my 20 minutes conversation with Ruth below, I asked her about:

    • What's your role and main responsibilities?
    • What are some projects from Office Labs?
    • How is Office Labs organized?
    • How do designers work differently in the Office Labs team than the designers working in traditional product teams?
    • What are some community outreach activities the Office Labs is doing?

    Ruth's Bio:

    I’m  a user experience designer and researcher with over 10 years of experience in working across a broad range of projects and roles in three continents. I was born and raised in Israel, studied and worked in Italy, Finland, UK and US. I worked for startups, had my own design consultancy (Max. Interactive ltd), worked as a UX consultant in Europe, and now I lead the UX team in Office Labs – a Microsoft innovation group which focuses on the future of productivity and information work. ( )

    I have a Bachelor degree in Design from Bezalel academy of art and design, Jerusalem and a Masters degree in Interaction design from Interaction design institute Ivrea. I’m interested in the interplay between society and technology and in the creation of experience platforms that change the way people act and perceive their actions. I explore how existing social interactions and behaviors can be supported or transformed by technology and be better facilitated through new products and services.

    You can see some of these projects in my website: Besides all that I’m a foodie, a film buff, a book worm, and a level 48 druid elf. 

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